Lord Botham: A Birthday Tribute
As cricket enthusiasts worldwide celebrate the birthday of the man affectionately known as “Beefy”, the day provides us with the perfect opportunity to shine a spotlight on his contributions to Somerset County Cricket Club.
Ian Botham’s career, and indeed his time at Somerset, is not merely a chapter in the Club’s history, but a saga of stellar performances, controversy and an indelible imprint that continues to resonate within the hallowed grounds of the cricketing world.
Ian Botham’s family moved to Yeovil before the advent of his third birthday and his performances on the sports field for Bucklers Mead School drew him to the attention of Somerset County Cricket Club in his early teenage years. Still only 13, Botham scored 80 on his debut for the Somerset Under 15s against their Wiltshire counterparts.
After choosing cricket over a potential career in football, he appeared for the Somerset Under 25s, via the MCC Ground Staff in 1972. He made his Somerset Second XI debut later that year in Falmouth.
He began to blossom under the tutelage of Tom Cartwright and made his Somerset First XI debut at Hove the following year. His initial performances were somewhat unremarkable, and it wasn’t until 1974 that he first rose to prominence.
Hampshire were the visitors to Taunton in the quarter final of the Benson & Hedges Cup on June 12th in a fixture that has gone down in Somerset folklore.
The young Botham walked to the crease with Somerset struggling on 113 for eight, needing a further 70 for victory. A bouncer from Andy Roberts removed four of the young man’s teeth, but he dusted himself off, wiped away the blood, hit two huge sixes, made an unbeaten 45 and claimed the player of the match award as Somerset secured what had seemed an unlikely victory by one wicket.
It was to be the first of many match-winning performances for both Club and Country.
His remarkable abilities as an all-rounder, capable of turning the tide of a match with both bat and ball, swiftly earned him admiration and reverence among fans and teammates alike. His ferocious batting, coupled with his lethal bowling prowess, were a key element of Somerset’s Glory Years period.
During his time with the Club, he played a crucial role as Somerset lifted the Gillette Cup and John Player League title in 1979, the NatWest trophy in 1983 and back-to-back Benson & Hedges Cups in 1981 and 1982.
He was awarded his Somerset Cap in 1976 and captained the County in 1984 and 1985.
He played in 172 First Class matches for Somerset, scoring 8686 runs at an average of 36 with a best of 228. He also claimed 489 First Class wickets at an average of 26.52 with a best of seven for 61. His one-day record is equally impressive. In his 230 List A matches for the Club, he scored 5049 runs at an average 30.41 with a best of 175 not out. He also claimed 300 wickets at 23.38 with a best of four for 10.
Following his very public departure from Taunton in 1986 he joined Worcestershire before ending his career at Durham.
His performances for England also made headlines on both the front and back pages.
His England debut came in a one-day match against the West Indies at Scarborough in 1974 and he was on the winning side on 14 occasions in his first 18 international matches, contributing three centuries and nine five-wicket hauls. He was soon elevated to the captaincy of his country, but it was when he was relieved of this duty that he returned to his very best form.
No one will ever forget his heroics against Australia at Headingley in 1981 as his sensational performance with the bat helped to secure a quite remarkable turnaround victory for England. Indeed, he was exceptional throughout that series.
In 1982 he scored the fastest-ever Test match double century against India and his England statistics make for eye-watering reading. In 102 Tests he amassed 5200 runs which included 14 centuries and a high score of 208.
383 Test wickets were also claimed at an average of just 28.4 with 27 five-wicket hauls and a best of eight for 34. His 116 ODIs yielded 145 wickets and in excess of 2000 runs.
Happy Birthday, Lord Ian Botham!
Your contributions to Somerset County Cricket Club and England cricket remain an enduring legacy, a chapter cherished and revered by fans, players, and cricket enthusiasts around the globe.